The Church of Itching Ears

Justin Johnson

In 2 Timothy 4 the apostle Paul gives a young pastor some extremely important advice.

“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” – 2 Timothy 4:1-4

Wow! Who says the Bible is not relevant today? People have not changed.

Here is my paraphrase:

There will be people in your ministry who will not want to hear doctrine. They will want stories, jokes, and their favorite topics. If you teach something they don’t want to hear, then they will get irritated and want to replace you. Don’t tickle their ears; beat their ears with doctrine, reproof, and rebuke for Christ’s sake.

There is a kind of person that only goes to church to hear what they already think. If they hear anything contrary, then their ears hurt, their feelings get hurt, and they leave or conspire to remove the teacher.

You might say, “so what, why would you want to go to a church teaching different than you believe?”

Because truth matters more than what you believe.

Of course everyone wants to believe what is true, but if you cannot explain why someone is wrong or why you are right, then you may be afflicted with itchy ear disease.

If what you believe is supported by scripture and your church is teaching doctrinal error, then by all means you should stand with truth and either try to correct with scripture or leave if they won’t hear it.

However, there are things that you might think are so, but scripture says otherwise. This is because God is true, and you still need to learn things. When this happens your ears will itch, “that’s not what I am used to hearing.”

If a teaching grates against your ears, the first thing to do is not to replace the teacher. The first thing to do is search the scriptures to see if it is true.

Is what you heard true with the Bible rightly divided? If the teaching is right, and it hurts to hear it, then the problem lies between your ears.

Don’t refuse a teaching just because it does not comport with your preconceived idea or what “feels right”. Always change your mind to comport with the word of God. This will force you to study the word of God at least as much as you listen to teachers. This is how people learn and grow: by hearing the word. How do people get itchy ears? By listening for good sounding teachers.

Paul told Timothy there will come a time when people will not want to learn and grow any more. They will think they know all they need to know. They will not search the scriptures. They will want to be spoon fed fluff and honey for the rest of their days and will resist doctrinal challenge.

Exhorting people to come to a knowledge of the truth, to make the effort to hear doctrine, to listen more carefully is hard work. Paul calls it the good fight of faith. This was the fight Paul was retiring from (2 Timothy 4:6-7).

Paul was preparing Timothy to be a good minister who preaches the word when it was in or out of season.

A good minister is not someone who gives people what they want to hear but gives them what they need to hear to strengthen their faith (1 Tim 4:6). What we all need to hear is sound doctrine.

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Published: December 5, 2020
Last Modified: December 21, 2021
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